Thursday, 30 January 2014

After Eden, by Helen Douglas

Eden is your average teenage girl: worrying about impending exams, planning parties, hanging out with her friends, balancing study and play. She’s not terribly interested in any of the boys at her school, and when new boy Ryan appears she’s determined not to fall into the same trap all the other girls do: falling head over heels to try and get noticed by him. But Eden soon suspects something’s a little off about Ryan – does he really not know pizza when he sees it, has he really never heard of Hitler? Or is he just teasing her? His accent is a weird mish-mash and he names her best friend Connor as his hero – despite having only met him about two days ago.

The main reason I picked up After Eden was because it is set in Cornwall (my home county), but I was quickly swept up by the mysteries of the storyline as Eden and Ryan were inexorably drawn together. And when Eden uncovers Ryan’s secret, she finds herself caught up in a mission to both change and protect the future. Will they succeed, or is their timeline written in the stars, unchangeable? To say more would be to give away the twist, to reveal Ryan’s secret, but rest assured it’s something a little different to most young adult storylines: no vampires, fairies or werewolves here, only humans and human folly.

Helen Douglas has written a classic YA romance with a nice twist that perfectly straddled the line between predictability and surprise. I could see where some parts of the story were going, but I was completely unable to predict the ultimate outcomes, which was not only refreshing, but meant that it kept my pulse elevated and made me want to keep turning the pages, as Douglas maintained a good pace to the storyline, throwing in a couple of shocks and ‘Aha!’ or ‘Oh no!’ moments here and there.

There are a couple of things I’d like to quibble – such as why Ryan wouldn’t have been better prepared for visiting Eden’s town, or the fact that his very visit could surely have risked delivering to Cornwall the very thing that he was sent there to prevent happening, never mind Eden’s occasional stupidity and thoughtlessness in the things she says just after she’s been outright told the dangers of revealing what she knows – but then, two of these issues help move the story forward to where Douglas needed it to go. If Ryan had been better prepared, would Eden have questioned his story in the first place? Probably not.

Overall though, After Eden ticks all the boxes for a an enjoyable YA read that is both recognizable as typical YA read whilst simultaneously being something a little different from the norm. And apparently there’s going to be an explosive sequel, which I am definitely interested to learn more about and see what is in store for Eden next. Can she and Ryan hide what they know? Will Ryan’s elders come after him for what he has done? Will Eden and Connor ever manage to mend their friendship?

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